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tv   FDR and the Post Office  CSPAN  June 18, 2017 11:30am-11:41am EDT

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>> director of fdr library and museum. >> honor to have you, thank you. >> discusses his book fdr and the post office. a world leader's passion. >> stamp collecting was extremely important to fdr. in fact, when he was writing the book fdr in the post office i found four letters in the archives in his handwriting, not typed written that actually credited stamp collecting with saving his life after he became until and ended up being confined to a wheel share and what he meant by that, what i gathered from the four letters to family and friends was that
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it gave him the motivation to pull himself out of bed, get in his wheelchair, roll over to his desk and pour over his collection, sometimes ten hours a day and he said he did that to keep his mind stimulated all of the time. he started collecting stamps at 8 year's old. ironically at the time that he really made stamp collecting what it became because when he was 8 year's old when his mother and father james and sarah roosevelt introduced him to stamp collecting it was thought to be a child hobby and adults would never waste their time on stamp collecting u was too trivial for them and so what was interesting about fdr is he was never interested in the condition of the stamp, the value of the stamp, he was more interested in the person, place or event pictured on the stamp because he kept saying to himself, why are these -- this
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person is so worthy to be in the stamp so, in effect, he got an education out of stamp collecting and that came back to receiver him very well. i can tell you a short story, when he was president of the united states and when we got into world war ii, he was in the war room with all the generals and admirals and they were going over and planning attack on a certain country and they were going to come in from the left flank and they were explained to the president and he said, you know, from my knowledge of that country and geography, you would be much better off coming in from the right flank and so the generals from what i read about and everything kind of looked at each other like, yeah, this politician, but when they went back and checked, that's exactly -- he had it right on the must be and they did do the attack from the right flank instead of the left, it was easier. i personally picked the time when he became governor of new york state, that's a very lofty
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position, you know, and he could not preach to people about it. he never did that once in his life but he would always seem to weave stamp collecting into speeches and enthusiastic that finally adults were saying, if this is good enough for the governor of new york, why shouldn't i be collecting and suddenly just the mind set of the country started changing and people were at fifth avenue cocktail parties discussing the latest stamp acquisition. it just happened like that. it definitely changed the whole face of the post office department at the time. what he did was when he ran for president in 1932 he was sworn in on march fourth, 1933 but he selected another up and coming politician and a very savvy businessman, james, he made him his campaign manager and he
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seized on the fact that fdr was touching people personally while he collected stamps and i'm collecting stamps. he was a regular guy because of that and so he actually designed campaign envelopes that had fdr's imprint, picture on the outside of the envelope and elect the stamp electing president, somebody of the american association because he wanted that message floating around the country. once he got into the oval office, for example, i will give you changes that took place. fdr took a job from a general and he insisted on reviewing and on top of that, most famous was
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the admiral and doing second expedition. now you had ally as post master general. they did so many things to change the face of the post office. one of them is a window, he said, i don't like stamp collecting being rushed when they are looking at the stamps at a normal window because there's a customer with a heavy parcel mumbling behind him and so he put in windows that were only to be used by stamp collectors. you could take all your time at that window because the person behind you was going to do the same thing. they introduced first
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ceremonies. the first time they would see a new stamp is when they went to the window and buy a new sheet of stamps. we have to get ceremonies to get papers out and newspapers and that's a very good tool to give the information out. two men really changed the face of the post office department. this is actually a piece that belonged to the fdr collection and i have an interesting story to tell about this and on the back, the auction house, auctioneers in new york city and london, obviously they had fdr's collection and they stamped the back, they authenticated that this is part of fdr's personal collection. you can see it was going to the secretary of state. when frrción dr first got in the oval office he found that his
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predecessor hubert was a stamp collector but not nearly in the level of fdr and he had initiated a program with the state department that once contents were taken out of envelopes, all the envelopes, this one in particular from 1935 all the envelopes would be forwarded, empty envelopes to the oval office to see if president needed stamps for collection. fdr being fdr went a step higher. he once wrote a letter in pencil on white house stationery and it was from the president to the secretary of state and i said, they must have misfiled this, you know i was going to read the letter anyway and it was a handwritten in pencil letter to the secretary of state where fdr was accusing the state department employees of holding back some of the empty envelopes and he encysted -- insist that
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had the secretary of state and when she got 25, she put them in today we call it a plastic baggy because he was getting thousands of letters from children saying, mr. president, i started a stamp collection and she would send them a letter wishing them well and started them off with 25 stamps. so, you know, fdr was in every facet of the industry at the time. he had a portion of the stamp collection with him everywhere he went, that includes while obviously he had at his house, when he was governor he had a portion of stamp collection with him on the top-left drawer of his desk and there were certain memo that is i read that when he was on a particularly boring conversation of governor he would slide door open and start
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working on stamp collection and torment of the boring conversation ended. he had obviously at the white house with him. he had a portion of the collection at warms springs, georgia. e even brought a portion of stamp collection to the famous war conference with churchill and stalin. one of the reasons he said was to let him unwind from the hectic day that he had specially during the war period, the war years. he passed away while he was down at warm springs, georgia on april 12th, 1945. like i said he always had a portion of the stamp collection with him and he worked on it that morning when he got up, it was just part of his routine and then he, you know, obviously he died that afternoon at 3:35. now his son james roosevelt was
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the executor of the will. i don't have an exact number on how many items were on the collection but when he decided to turn it over to an auction house james finally styeded, my father would want to share with other collectors. there were so many items that they had to do the auction over seven days in four separate sessions all-day sessions and while his collection was estimated at $85,000 which surprised a lot of people because he was a man, don't forget he didn't care if the stamps were bent or oiled from his fingers. the final gavel fell and they raised $225,000. everybody was furious to get a piece of fdr's


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